Penang is an island city off the west coast of the Malaysian peninsula. Arrive directly to the Penang airport or alternatively the bus stop will drop you at Butterworth, get the ferry from there to Penang harbour in Georgetown (MYR1.50 p/p). George Town is the colourful colonial capital of the multicultural island and home to Penang’s vibrant backpackers culture.
George Town is one of the most interesting and colourful cities in Malaysia. Named after King George III, walking down the streets of Georgetown is like walking through the paths of history. The city was listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO on the 7th of July 2008 and it is clear to see why.
Within the old town, walls are scattered with street art and the streets are alive with the sounds and smells of traditional restaurants. Get your hands on a map of the street art and do a walking tour of the amazing paintings and wire framed art ubiquitous to the area. Pop into little Indian for a curry and rice or chicken Tandoori and butter naan.
Hiring a scooter is a fun and affordable way to get around on the island and provides a great level of flexibility. (Don’t pay more than MYR30 for 24 hours).
A short way outside of the old town, and not to be missed is the Kek Lok Si temple – a Buddhist temple complex, that features a 100 ft. Goddess under a 200 ft. pagoda facing the sea. The hillside temple complex is characterised by colourful and intricate décor and images of Buddha. This should take more or less half a day, couple this with a short stop in at the China house, for a delicious slice of salted caramel cake and an artisan coffee, on the way home to guarantee yourself a satisfying and splendid day out on the island.
Check out Batu Ferringhi beach for the day, enjoy the water activities – jet skis etc., or just a casual time on the beach. Enjoy the sunset on one of the secluded beaches further up the coast and enjoy the ravishingly rich rainbow of colours that ensues. Stop in at the street market on the way back to Georgetown for a light bite if you have the time.
There are an abundance of guest houses and hostels in the area that you can book online depending on your preferences. We stayed at Heritage 16 which was clean and well located in the central backpacking area in Georgetown. Just make sure you are up early to enjoy the inclusive breakfast while it’s warm.If you have the time be sure to visit the botanical gardens or one of the many waterfalls on the island can provide a nice relaxing opportunity to enjoy the natural beauty of Penang.
*Note – Give the snake temple a big old skip, it’s not worth the harrowing trip on the highway on a scooter for what maybe once was a great attraction which is now more or less a home with some very lethargic “snakes” in the business district behind the airport.